Super Best Audio Friends

The evolution of the original irreverent and irrelevant and non-authoritative site for headphone measurements, i.e. frequency response graphs, CSD waterfall plots, subjective gear reviews. Too objective for subjectivists; too subjective for objectivists

I had a much longer review of the Lake People G109A (the 2016 [Mass]Drop special edition of the G109S commemorating Lake People's 30th anniversary) with glamour shots and all prepared but somehow contrived to lose it. This is probably for the better because I can be a lot more neutral and offhanded about the thing, haha.

Sources used: Micro iDSD (as a DAC) and Bifrost Multibit A1
Other amps: Massdrop/Eddie Current ZDT Jr (RIP), Garage1217 Sunrise III.
Headphones paired: Klipsch HP-3, Fostex TH-X00 Ebony, Beyerdynamic DT880[250] w/ felt disc mod, Sennheiser HD600/HD650/HD800 (w/ Anax mods), HiFiMAN HE-4XX, Meze 99 Classics.

Full disclosure, this amp was loaned to me by the same friend that got me back into audio about half a decade ago, back when I was under the blissful assumption I'd be happy stuck in entry-fi, which was the AKG K550 straight out of whatever phone I had at the time. He didn't mind letting me keep it indefinitely since he has a Senn HDVD800 that he prefers to the discrete amp, which probably says a lot about the G109A, really, price of the Sennheiser AIO notwithstanding.

Personally, I don't hate the G109A; I just think it's pricey for what you get. I use this amp for measurements since it's leagues quieter than the Sunrise III even with the benefit of running it through a LPS, and the channel separation somehow seems much better than on the Sunrise or (from my notes) ZDT Jr.— hard-panned items seem angled further to the side, and sonic images are reasonably large, almost as much so as on the ZDT Jr. Hell, someone on a far more measurements-oriented site gave this amp a glowing review. This makes me feel kinda icky about it but affirms that it's good for measurements and pretty typical of solid state performance.... kinda.
Man with one meter always knows the reading, man with two or more less certain.

Laboratory work requires well specified, calibrated devices. Fluke 62 max plus is an example for non contact infrared thermometers. However, for DIY and hobbyist use lower cost devices allow those on a budget to make thermal measurements over a qualified operating range. This led to pondering the differences between standards such as Fluke and less expensive, less well known IR thermometers.

Ice bath calibration
01 IMG_2916_small.jpg
The official subjective review and many others' impressions can be found in this thread. Any subjective impressions here will be brief and are mostly consistent with what some others have already observed. I passed around the headphone at work among non-audiophiles or entry level audiophiles. The comments were "slightly thin or bright" with respect to tonal signature. Depending upon the recording, I did feel the XC retained a bit of that upper-mid "honk" (more precisely a peak around 2kHz) from similar type of closed Audeze I heard many years ago. Or another way to look at this is thin - a lack of body - often the result of slightly recessed lower mids or lows. All these impressions BTW were gathered before I took a single measurement. The "technicalities" of the XC are excellent.

One thing which I have been curious about are the EQ profiles which Audeze provides for their high tier headphones at a modest fee. Roon actually includes these profiles; so naturally, this was the first thing I wanted to test.

Audeze LCD-XC
Frequency Response
(FPC compensated)
GRN = no EQ, YEL = Audeze LCD-XC DSP preset on
upload_2021-9-18_15-7-41.png
This is a continuation of my earlier efforts starting here where I rolled different tubes (WE396a on adapter, stock 6BZ7, Telefunken 6D78), on the Vali 2 before I did Texas or bust. The same methodology was used as back then to keep things consistent. Volume knob was maxed and output level set to about 0.550Vrms. Gain set to low. Load is 300-ohms. This voltage level is enough to drive HD650s to near 100db SPL.

5F4A0034.JPG

WARNING: Oh, if your religion is dogmatic and based on AmirNADS, then get a JDS Atom, Geshelli, or Schiit IEMagni and go away. (We do not recommend the L30 because of some issues with it exploding headphones and fixes which we do not feel will fix the problem, especially with the ESD prone OPA1612). DO NOT SPEND MORE MONEY THAN $149 and certainly stop here and do not read further.

Electroharmonix 6922EH standard (new production, barely used) #1
upload_2021-9-14_19-28-21.png
This thing is a tank. It feels very high quality with aluminum sides and a very solid feel. The device has curved edges, but is a bit flattened on the edges where you hold it which makes it feel really nice in your hands. It’s a bit heavy and thick when you’re used to a phone, but there are important parts inside and I’m sure Shanling doesn’t have the engineering savvy of Apple or Samsung to cram parts in tight spaces as well. The volume knob is a nice touch, I hate touch screen volume adjustment. It turns nicely, and it also moves in small increments which is very nice for sensitive CA iems. I can get the volume exactly where I want it easily. Which is impossible on an iPhone or even my Drop 789 amp on low gain because there just isn’t enough play in the volume knob (ok, I can get the volume where I want, but it takes tiny tiny touches to the volume knob). Also nice, is that in settings you can set what level the volume goes to by default after it shuts down so it’s not always crazy loud when you turn it on by default. Nice. The only thing that is annoying is the touch screen isn’t as sensitive as good smartphones, which makes interacting with it a little more cluesy than a good smartphone. The (optional in settings) double tap to turn it on isn’t as reactive as an iPhone and the alternative is pushing the volume knob which is a little awkward and tends to change the volume when you push it. I think the touch screen could be a little more sensitive to make this easier but I’m really nit picking here. Once you get used to it, it’s fine. And I don’t think you can expect better at this price and for a DAP.

Surprisingly resolving and dynamic. It really grabs iem drivers by the balls and slams hard. Dynamics sound tighter than my desktop rig (see above) but that could be because of the tonal balance (a bit bass lite). Resolution is behind but surprisingly not by that much. The tonality is a bit brittle sounding if I’m nitpicking, my desktop setup sounds more natural and organic while not loosing any control or having any bloom. The FR feels slightly thin and tipped upwards but the M6 Pro not bright at all. It’s just not a warm sounding DAP. Just slightly on the thin side of neutral and slightly bass lite. Most people will probably perceive this as "neutral". Those who like solid state amps will not notice this at all, it’s much warmer and has more body than most solid state amps but my desktop rig has noticeably more body, weight and bass than the M6 Pro. When switching back to my desktop rig I kind of breath a sigh of relief from the more natural tone and more balanced presentation. Great soundstage for such a small device, it’s not close to my desktop rig but it’s still good.
To start, I'd like to say a big thank you to DUNU for voicing this IEM for North American ears. Many of us do not like super emphasized upper mids and spikey highs as prescribed by Dr. Olive's preference targets. The bass is slightly emphasized with the EST 112, but that OK's because everybody wants moar bass. I did eventually dial down the bass on the Loki EQ just a bit. I would also like to thank DUNU for creating something that looks classy. It fact, it's so classy that I let it sit in the opened box (among many others) because I didn't know what I was. Anyway, this is appreciated because I feel that I can wear these IEMs in public. They aren't screaming bright red with winged demons, nor do they look like Fisher Price toys, nor are there stylized lizards with gigantic testicles hanging under their tails. We have a phrase here at SBAF: keep it classy. You guys have certainly done that. And BTW, finding a good fit was super easy with a variety of tips.

5F4A0032[1].jpg

I actually did not know that these utilized electrostatic drivers. I guess this is a DD, BA, EST hybrid. Integration of the different drivers types sounded pretty good in the crossover areas. However in the end, I felt the sound of the drivers was simply too different. The DD lows carried heft and physicality, were well textured, but were a bit plodding and thick. The balance of the midrange was good, maybe just nick more volume with the pinna gain spot pushed just a slightly higher in frequency than I would like - but close enough. The timbre of the mids and upper mids sounded very stereotypical BA, which tended to dominate over the electret drivers in the highs. I kind of wished I could have heard the sound of the electrets more to themselves without the BA drivers getting in the way.
Well, the Less Is More - LIM - is the extension of this prototype (let's call it development idea) to a flagship level product. The end product is very similar to what I had heard from the little prototype box. The tonal signature remains very even. The LIM doesn't have the OG(A2)'s organic lows and slightly emphasized top octave. The LIM doesn't have Gungnir A2's midbass reticence or forward upper mids. The LIM doesn't have an emphasis or recession in any one area of the spectrum. It does however have a very slight dark tilt. It's also slightly harmonic richer sounding than the prototype, but less rich than the Gungnir and Yggdrasil.

[​IMG]

Everything else in terms of technicalities is raised quite a bit from the development idea. Proper bass slam is now restored - as good as the rest of the Schiit DAC lineup > $700. Bass articulation is better than Yggdrasil. Clarity is better than Yggdrasil and Gungnir. The macro-dynamics are on another level to earlier Schiit DACs. I think the 8812 chip has been unleashed by the Yggdrasil motherboard (which really is the power supply for all the components). The SE and BAL outputs sounded more or less the same (trying to take into account other unavoidables which makes a true apples-apples comparison impossible). Retrieval of low level information is behind Yggdrasil OG, maybe on par with the current Gungnir (maybe even somewhere in between Gungnir A1 and A2 - still no slouch). If you are a microdetail whore, you may miss this. I consider myself a resolution whore; and TBH, I didn't miss it that much because it was a matter of the totality of the parts. This is why I have to say that my preference for the LIM must be caveated with other considerations. (BTW, most people need not worry about the microdetail / plankton thing - they don't have systems resolving enough - this goes for many https://www.ORFAS.org audiophiles I know.)
The only downside is that Bryston over the years has increased its price from just over a grand to $2295. For this, the BHA-1 also wins the SBAF Brown Starfish award.

[​IMG]

I will simply state a few things about the BHA-1 because there is a wealth of subjective impressions already. Is this amp the end all be all? Nope. I wouldn't buy it for the retail price. I think a lot of amps today may be competitive (but different sounding) at better prices today: iFi Audio Pro iCan, SPL Phonitor SE, Schiit Jotunheim 2, Violelectric HPA V280. Strengths of the BHA-1 are that one can largely discern the sound of different DACs through it. If we run a low-end AKM Velvet DAC, we will get murky mushy lows and mids and delta-sigma highs. If we run a hard hitting R2R DAC with smooth highs, we will get just that. This is when gear starts to get serious. The reason all DACs sound the same from Topping amps is because all DACs really do sound the same from those Topping amps, especially those with the TPA6120. Where the BHA-1 falls short is ultimate resolution and microdynamics. As such, the BHA-1 remains a fantastic deal at used prices and a good stop-gap if one is waiting for their ultimate TOTL tube amp to be built or even a good end-game if one wanted to stay with solid-state.
I'm posting this because a few people asked. First of all, if you are an objectivist, go away. This project employs a microphone capsule that doesn't have a flat response. It's also a transformer coupled (NOT transformerless) design with a single active component, a JFET, where I intentionally chose a resistor to bias the JFET for higher second and even order distortion.

I had been looking for a large diaphragm transformer coupled microphone, particularly a vintagey sounding one, for some time now. The problem is that they don't make 'em anymore. Well, they actually do. But the problem is that we would have to cough up around $4000 for Neumann U47 FET. That's bullshit. I know Neumann is a respected name in microphones; but I fucking hate them. Over the decades, they've cheapened their microphones while keeping their prices astronomical. It's for the mystique, the brand name. @Psalmanazar and I talk about studio gear every now and then and we joked about recording studios may have a Neumann on hand just for the cachet, but in reality probably use other microphones.

For this project, I pretty much used the parts from the micparts T-47 kit (https://microphone-parts.com/collections/microphone-kits/products/t47-microphone-kit) with the exception of the capsule which came from @Soliloqueen. I can't down turn playing with creations from fellow members, encouraging them to make good shit. This capsule is intended to be similar to the K47 capsule of the U47 which has a bump in the presence region (it's intentional) and is still under development.

PXL_20210703_002900066.jpg
This is going to mostly be background on why I even bothered getting the d90se, a story if you will, that maybe will resonate with others. If you just want to know what I think of the dac, skip to the end, but the tldr is that it sucks.

[​IMG]

I've kind of been in what I would call the "audiophile" end of the pool as far as my equipment goes for quite a few years at this point. I never bought things based on measurements. I bought them with an eye on the measurements, but based on what I had heard at meets and at home, with the impressions of members I trust, and also what I thought of the engineering of the product in question.

This has led to some excellent purchases on my part. The loaner programs here and at Changstar back in the day have also been invaluable, thats what led me to discover my love for the Gungnir DS. Trying all this gear, and reading impressions here is what allows you to find other members with similar tastes as yours, and even if they have different tastes in gear, you can learn to triangulate what you might think of the gear in question and whether it is worth persuing for your rig.
Recently a member posted a link to an article to headphones.com titled evaluating-sinad-why-its-not-important.

This thread was shut down by the mods (I didn't do it but I approved) because these types of threads end up as the usual shit slinging. In the end, no one will change their mind, and there will be little talk about science or where the reality sits. There are a lot of good reasons why SINAD doesn't matter (it matters a little, but not much, and once past a certain point, it really has little correlation to sound quality). The headphones.com author cited masking and audibility thresholds. This is one of them which I have already cited, but in a much simpler way. In retrospect, I do think it's wise to keep repeating SINAD does matter. Perhaps every month I should post one reason why it doesn't matter? Well, for this month, I will make one simple argument:

[​IMG]

SINAD does not matter because people cannot hear it.
By this, I specifically mean that Amir at Audio Science Review cannot hear bad SINAD.
I know, I know. We are long overdue for a more formal review (as formal as it gets here) of an ampsandsound amp. I've wanted to get to one for well over two or more years now - since that last mini-meet we had at my place when I was still in California. Time sure goes by fast. I'm sure one day I will be back in California because my aging parents are trying to bribe me to be closer to them.

[​IMG]

I've heard ampsandsound amps before (at that prior meet and others), but refrained from commenting much because different ears, different preferences, and different setups. As many others who have been into audio for a length of time and owned fairly stable systems: it's like cooking. Good ingredients help, but ultimately it's how those ingredients are selected and put together. The only way for me to make a proper assessment is to get one of them ampsandsound amps into my house, with my sources, my headphones, and my local power. (Yes, amps do sound very slightly different - better that is - in South Texas - I shit you not).